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Irish voters shun establishment parties

A detailed exit poll has revealed that Irish election results may leave the country without a government. The country's three major parties have been left with hope of a majority or coalition.

Comprehensive exit polls in Ireland on Saturday showed that voters had soundly spurned Prime Minister Enda Kenny and his government in

the country's general election

. The result could likely lead to either a hung parliament or a coalition between parties that have been rivals for decades.

Irish national broadcaster RTE said that Fine Gael, Kenny's center-right party, had garnered around 24.8 percent of the vote, down from 27.3 percent in 2011. Coalition partners the Labour Party also tumbled down three points from the last election to 7.1 percent, making it nearly impossible for the same coalition to continue in power in a country where 40 percent of the first-preference votes are needed to lead a parliament.

Fianna Fail, another center-right establishment party, won 21.1 percent support according to the RTE poll. While sharing some policy similarities, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are the political descendants of opposite sides on Irelands 1922-23 civil war, leaving the possibility of a coalition less than probable.

Derek McDowell, a strategist for the Labour Party, said the results belied a frustration amongst Irish voters with the country's mainstream politics.

"One of the reasons we did so well in 2011 was because people accepted we needed a strong government to get us out of an extraordinary mess. There isn't any such acceptance now," McDowell said.

The Irish Republican Army-linked Sinn Fein received 16 percent of the first-preference votes, which could double its number of lawmakers in parliament but not enough that a coalition would give either of the two biggest parties a sufficient majority to form a government.

The final vote tally was not expected until Sunday.

es/jlw (AP, AFP)

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